Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) & Oral Cancer

The key to prevention is knowledge

Posted by Deanna Dimone on March 30, 2017

Dr. Tucker and staff recently attended a continuing education course sponsored by Adirondack Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery. The focus of the course was on the prevention and treatment of patients with oropharyngeal cancer. Our office is always eager to expand our knowledge and share what we learn with our patients.

What is Oral HPV?

Affected areas of oral HPV

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is commonly known as the virus that causes cervical cancer in women. HPV is also an infection that can colonize the back of the throat. This includes the tongue base and tonsils. Certain types of HPV can cause cancers of the head and neck area.

Causes of Oropharyngeal Cancer

HPV can cause normal cells that are infected to turn abnormal. The most dangerous HPV's are type 16 and 18, which are transmitted through sexual contact. HPV 16 & 18 are known to cause up to 95% of cervical cancers. These two HPV's are being linked to oral cancer. At the cellular level, the mouth is structurally similar to the vagina and cervix. Both organs have the same type of epithelial cells that are the target of HPV 16 and HPV 18. The majority of oral cancers are cancers of epithelial cells.

  • Close to 49,750 Americans will be diagnosed with oral oropharyngeal cancer this year.
  • Oropharyngeal cancers related to smoking and alcohol are on the decline, while those caused by HPV are rising dramatically.

Who oral cancer effects

  • Oral cancer is twice as common in men as in women.
  • The likelihood of developing oral cancer increases with age, especially after age 35. Half of all oral cancers are diagnosed in people older than 62.
  • 80% of patients with oral cancer are tobacco users.
  • HPV is the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancers.

Vaccines / lowering your chances of giving or getting oral HPV

  • Not getting vaccinated and having multiple sexual partners can increase the risk of HPV.
  • The HPV vaccine is important because it protects against cancers caused by HPV infection.
  • Every year in the United States, HPV causes 30,700 cancers in men and women. HPV vaccination can prevent most of the cancers (about 28,000) from occurring.
  • The CDC recommends starting vaccination at age eleven. Eleven- to twelve-year-olds should receive two doses of HPV vaccine at least six months apart.
  • There are 2 companies that provide 3 options for HPV Vaccination:
    • Cervarix: protects against HPV 16&18
    • Gardasil: protects against HPV 6,11,16,18
    • Gardasil 9: protects against HPV6,11,16,18&31,33,45,52,58

*For more information on HPV vaccinations, please visit the CDC website:

Dr. Douglas Tucker, DMD. 169 Columbia Turnpike, Rensselaer, NY 12144. Ph: (518) 463-6153.